Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Ivy Leagues’ Mandatory Standardized Testing Policies Classist

Photo courtesy of Khadijah Halliday
Students walk around on campus.


What comes to mind first when hearing “Ivy League school” are the following words: pretentious, expensive, and exclusive. In the United States, very few undergraduates can say that they went to an Ivy League school. Even the words “Ivy League” have to be capitalized because it is a proper noun; it is a category on its own. The schools that fall under this category are Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Brown University, and Yale University. 

These schools are leaders of higher education in the United States and overseas, inspiring high school and college graduates to apply to be part of something bigger, something that is incredibly influential. Moreover, Ivy Leagues have an incredible amount of power and often push for academic excellence and worldly change. If these schools are the academic leaders of yesterday, today, and possibly tomorrow, then why is standardized testing still mandated for upcoming undergraduates after the COVID-19 pandemic and the research released?

Dartmouth College determined that they would be shifting back to mandatory standardized testing starting with the class of 2029 after a pause beginning in 2020. Harvard announced that they will be extending their test optional policy from 2027–2030 and stressed that scores are only one part of an application. The University of Pennsylvania declared that they extended their test optional policy from the pandemic to their 2025 cycle and that the test is “one component” of the application. Princeton also extended their test-optional policy until 2025 and claims a holistic view for each application by stating that there is no minimum test score requirement and that they look at the whole application thoughtfully. Yale has mandatory standardized testing starting fall 2025. Three of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges do not consider test scores, while all of the others are test-optional until fall 2025. Brown is updating their standardized testing policy annually, so it is currently test-optional for this year. 

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering are the first and only Ivy League schools to permanently not require standardized testing for undergraduate students, which is a huge breakthrough. 

As a first-generation college student, this means a lot to me to see an Ivy League leading a fixed test-optional policy. Columbia College and Columbia Engineering are, in my eyes, the preeminent academic institutions that also truly claims a holistic view on their application, as well as Princeton University.

Harvard’s news outlet, the Harvard Gazette, addressed how Opportunity Insights — a research organization — led an investigation analyzing the correlation between class and higher-education. Harvard researchers, through Opportunity Insights, found that it is “13 times likelier” for wealthy/upper-class teenagers to score higher than a 1300 on the SAT. If Harvard researchers are finding out this information and its students are talking about it, then this highlights how undergraduate students and professors are also questioning standardized testing. 

Because Harvard has led part of the research about the division of class and education, I’m suspecting that Harvard will change their already far-extended testing policy to be permanent soon.

The quality of teachers does affect how students learn and if they do well on standardized tests when looking more into the research Opportunity Insights has provided. Studying over 18 million test scores and 2.5 million students, it found that great teaching  heavily affects students’ ability to learn and take tests. Unfortunately, high schoolers that come from public schools in low-income areas cannot, most often, afford “great teachers,” which is unavoidable for the ambitious student who wants to pursue academia. The top teenagers who are part of the one percent economically are also 77 times more likely to attend elite schools than low-income teenagers.

With all of this information, it really does disturb me to see leading institutions like Dartmouth College and Yale University enable this gap of class and education. Yes, they may claim to be open-minded, but if that were true, I cannot help but think that they would consider the gap that they are inherently supporting between low-income students and higher education. Thus, they need to remove their mandatory standardized testing policy in order to prove that they are being open-minded about each and every application.

A low-income high schooler who knows all of this may not want to go to college, because it is so far-reaching that it becomes impossible for them. Schools like Dartmouth and Yale are leaders, and other colleges/universities look up to them in every aspect that is accessible for them. Because these two schools have power and influence, it is disconcerting to think about how many students they will turn down because of their SAT/ACT scores, which can be a reflection of class.

I am excited to see what Ivy League colleges like Columbia do about their test-optional policy — I think Columbia is really turning things around for elite colleges and every other higher education institution.

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